Steelers Trade Up to Draft Wisconsin’s ‘Big Tree’

Isaiahh Loudermilk

Stacy Revere/Getty Images Isaiahh Loudermilk of the Wisconsin Badgers reacts to a sack against the Northwestern Wildcats on September 30, 2017.

The Pittsburgh Steelers came into Day 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft without a pick in the fifth round, something they could not abide by. After selecting offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr. and linebacker Buddy Johnson (both from Texas A&M) in round four, the Steelers traded a 2022 fourth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins to enable them to grab defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk at No. 156 overall.

Loudermilk—who is 6-foot-7 and played his senior year at 285 pounds or so—is referred to by at least one teammate as “The Big Tree.” Yet he insists he’s usually called “Squatch” (which is short for Sasquatch) as the Badgers apparently have a second “Big Tree” in fellow defensive lineman Isaiah Mullens.

Regardless of his nickname, the Steelers are drafting Loudermilk for his size and height, not to mention his “position flexibility,” as Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin might put it.

“He fits the mold for what we want to do here in Pittsburgh,” said Steelers D-line coach Karl Dunbar. “He’s a strapping young man. To get a kid with this kind of size and height in the fifth round is a really great gift for the Steelers, adding that “[Loudermilk] is going to play everything from a five-technique to a zero-nose.”

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Loudermilk Played in a Steelers-Like Defense at Wisconsin

As for Loudermilk’s career at Wisconsin, he played in 40 career games (26 starts), during which time he amassed 63 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. He also had nine passes defensed and two forced fumbles. But stats may not tell the entire story, as playing on the defensive line in Wisconsin’s 3-4 defense is a little like playing for the Steelers, where the D-lineman have (historically) been more focused on tying up blockers to allow the linebackers to make plays.

In 2020 Loudermilk was All-Big Ten third team (media), All-Big Ten honorable mention (coaches) and an East-West Shrine Bowl selection.

In terms of what he brings to his new team, “I feel like I’m someone who can make an impact on and off the field,” said Loudermilk in a recent interview with Jacob Infante of USA Today DraftWire. “Being at Wisconsin, they really drill into us being smart and dependable.”

Loudermilk also says he’s learned a lot from watching Wisconsin teammates who have gone on to the NFL, including Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who was still with the Badgers when Loudermilk was redshirting.

“[Zack Baun and Jack Cichy] were in college dominating, and there was reason for that: high football IQ, strength, speed, stuff like that,” Loudermilk told Infante. “Being able to see their level of play while they were here, giving me tips here and there, just being able to work with them I feel has definitely helped me grow as a player.”

What Number Will Loudermilk Wear?

Last but not least, you’ll notice from the above pic that Loudermilk wore No. 97 at Wisconsin, something he won’t be able to do in Pittsburgh, not as long as Cameron Heyward is around.

“The only bad thing about him is he is going to come here and won’t be able to wear No. 97,” admits Dunbar.

Also Read:
Steelers Get Self-Described ‘Nastiest Player in This Draft’

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